POSTPARTUM SYMPTOMS & SOLUTIONS TO GET YOU THROUGH
POSTPARTUM SYMPTOMS & SOLUTIONS TO GET YOU THROUGH
After giving birth, your body will experience various symptoms in the first six weeks ranging from bleeding to soreness. Here’s how to soothe those aching body parts.
Now that you've put the long months of pregnancy behind you and you've given birth, you're probably breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of waving goodbye to those frustrating pregnancy symptoms. But just as you get used to seeing your feet again, you're likely to be hit by some postpartum side effects - some of them as weird as the pregnancy symptoms you just left behind.
YOUR FIRST SIX WEEKS OF RECOVERY
Your first six weeks after birth are what's known as a postpartum recovery period - when your body recoups from the monumental task of making and then pushing a baby into the world. Most, if not all, symptoms will be temporary, gradually easing up within a week. Some symptoms (like backaches, sore nipples and possibly pain in the perineum) continue for weeks, while others (like leaky breasts or your achy back) may not get better until your baby is older.
The important thing to remember: While you're focusing your care and attention on your new baby, remember that it's essential to care for your own health. If you're not well in mind and body, it's that much harder to care for the little person you've brought into the world.
COMMON POSTPARTUM SYMPTOMS AND SOLUTIONS
Your postpartum symptoms will depend on the type of delivery you had (easy or difficult, vaginal or cesarean) and other individual factors, such as the shape you were in when you were pregnant and whether this is your first baby. Below are 15 of the most common symptoms that you may experience as well as solutions for dealing with them.
Bleeding from your vagina
Solution: Be prepared with a pile of pads (not tampons) to absorb the flow, which may continue on and off for up to six weeks.
Abdominal cramps as your uterus contracts
Solution: Your uterus can take up to six weeks to shrink back to its normal size as well; in the meantime, try taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for relief.
Perineal discomfort, pain or numbness
Solution: Keep the perineal area clean. Try using chilled witch hazel pads or a cold pack; take a warm sitz bath; use a local anesthetic spray, cream, ointment or pad; lie on your side when you sleep; wear loose clothing; and take acetaminophen. Kegel exercises can also help get the circulation going and speed the healing process.
Pain or numbness around C-section incision
Solution: Take prescribed pain relievers as directed. If pain continues for weeks, try over-the-counter pain relief medications and discuss dosages with your doctor. Also avoid heavy lifting for the first few weeks after surgery.
Solution: You might find it difficult to pee for the first couple days after birth - so drink plenty of fluids and go for a stroll. Pour some warm water over your perineal area, take a sitz bath, or apply an ice pack to your perineal area to induce urgency. You can also simply try turning on a water faucet while you're trying to urinate.
Solution: Your first post-birth BM can be a bit slow-coming, so in the meantime don't try to force things. Drink fluids and eat fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies. Go for walks and do Kegel exercises, avoid straining and use stool softeners. Finally, give chewing gum a try, since it can help stimulate digestive reflexes.
Solution: All of that pushing during labor can result in hemorrhoids - so take sitz baths or try using topical anesthetics, witch hazel pads, suppositories or hot or cold compresses.
Solution: Share the load with your partner, family, friends or even hired help. Don't get too caught up in keeping your home immaculate, returning emails or writing thank you cards. For now, just focus on the most important stuff. If you need something from the store or you're too tired to cook a meal, get it all delivered. Sleep when your baby sleeps. And don't forget to eat regularly!
Overall achiness, especially if you did a lot of pushing
Solution: Take acetaminophen and ease sore muscles with hot baths, showers or a heating pad. If you've never had a massage before, there's never been a better time to book one.
Bloodshot (or puffy) eyes
Solution: Apply cold compresses to your eyes for 10 minutes a few times a day.
Solution: Cover your pillow with an absorbent towel and drink plenty of fluids to help compensate for the water you're losing.
Solution: Wet a washcloth with warm water and place it on your areolas, or lean into a bowl of warm water. You can also gently massage your breasts or use ice packs. And make sure you're wearing a well-fitting nursing bra.
Sore or cracked nipples from breastfeeding
Solution: Make sure your breasts are positioned the right way, and vary your nursing positions. Expose your nipples to air briefly after breastfeeding, keep them dry, and protect them from any undergarments or fabrics that may irritate them. Let your breast milk dry on your nipples to help heal them, try applying ultra-purified medical grade lanolin to your nipples (avoid petroleum-based products) or wet regular tea bags with cool water and place them on your nipples. Taking acetaminophen before nursing may also help ease soreness.
An achy back
Solution: Try focusing on bending from your knees when you lift your baby, and use a footrest to elevate your feet when breastfeeding or sitting.
Solution: Invest in nursing pads and opt for dark patterned tops that will help hide any wet spots.
Solution: The first weeks postpartum come with their own set of emotions: Bringing a baby into the world and learning to care for her are no small feats - and many women experience jitters, mood swings and even depression. Postpartum depression is common, affecting up to one in seven women. It typically starts two to three days after giving birth, though it can begin later. The good news is that it often gets better within a couple of weeks on its own. Until then, take care of yourself. Allow friends or your partner to make a meal or to clean up your kitchen so you can focus on resting and bonding with your baby. And if symptoms persists for longer than a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor. Many moms have been there before, and with help they got past their depression to truly enjoy parenting. It's crucial to your future and your family's that you speak up.
YOUR 6-WEEK POSTPARTUM CHECKUP
Near the end of the first six weeks after you've had your baby, your doctor will want to see you for your first postpartum checkup. During this visit, your doctor will check your:
Vagina, cervix and uterus
Site of episiotomy or perineal laceration, if you had either
Cesarean incision, if you had one
Hemorrhoids or varicose veins
This is a good opportunity to talk to your practitioner about any questions or concerns you may have, including when you can start having sex again, what birth control options are available, what you can do to start losing some of the pregnancy weight you gained, and where to get help breastfeeding. It can be helpful to jot down a list of the things you'd like to discuss before you go, so you're prepared and don't forget anything in the moment. And don't be afraid to speak up: Your doctor has been there, heard it all before and is there to help you - but only if you tell her what's on your mind!
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